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Missoula Personal Injury Blog

Much more testing needed before autonomous vehicles prove safety

Autonomous vehicle technology excites some people in Montana who hope to eliminate accidents caused by human error. Despite the theoretical benefits of the technology, developers of self-driving vehicles continue to face hurdles in regard to safety. A report from the Rand Corporation criticized technology companies for making promises about safety before completing extensive testing. To prove the technology's safety, developers need to drive the vehicles millions and perhaps billions of miles before making statistical claims about accident rates.

Waymo, an autonomous vehicle developer, has completed 7 billion miles of tests in simulators on virtual roads. The Rand report, however, cautioned that physical test drives alone could predict safety in real-world driving conditions.

Colon cancer frequently misdiagnosed in young patients

The American Association for Cancer Research has presented the results of a study showing that colorectal cancer is being frequently misdiagnosed among young adult patients. Montana residents should know that the symptoms of colorectal cancer include vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, blood in stool, fatigue and inexplicable weight loss.

Because these symptoms can be mistaken for those of other conditions, and because young patients tend to be healthy, it is understandable that most physicians will not immediately think cancer is behind it all. Patients themselves, unaware that these are the symptoms of colon cancer, may wait until late in life to be screened for it.

Study finds that fibromyalgia is frequently misdiagnosed

Fibromyalgia sufferers in Montana typically experience widespread pain, fatigue and other symptoms that may affect quality of life. The chronic rheumatic condition is also difficult for doctors to properly diagnose. This is why it's a condition frequently misdiagnosed -- at least that's the conclusion from a study that compared clinician diagnoses and published criteria.

Misclassification of the disease has the potential to result in medical malpractice litigation; although, this study on the diagnosis of fibromyalgia didn't specifically address that issue. More importantly, a misdiagnosis could result in unnecessary treatments that are harmful or a delay in receiving the proper treatment. For the study, nearly 500 patients filled out a questionnaire and received an evaluation by rheumatology staff. It was discovered that nearly 25 percent of patients met the standards for being diagnosed with fibromyalgia based on American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria.

What Montana drivers should do after a car wreck

There are several important steps to take after a car accident in Montana. If handled correctly, a driver can make it easier for legal liability to be determined and have less trouble filing a car insurance claim. The first step is to remain calm as this can help a motorist remember vital details after the fact. If anyone requires immediate medical care, call 911.

After all emergencies have been attended to, drivers might consider moving the vehicles out of the way of danger. If no danger is present, though, it is best to leave the crash scene as is. The next step is to physically document the crash. The easiest way to do this is by taking pictures of vehicle damage, visible injuries, skid marks and any damaged trees or property.

Protection against drunk drivers

Montana drivers who are concerned about road safety, particularly when it comes to drunk drivers, can take certain steps to protect themselves. Defensive driving is a form of driving that can help people save their own lives when they are sharing the road with drunk drivers.

It is important to first be able to recognize the signs that another driver on the road may be drunk. Typical driving signs may include making turns that are too wide, driving in the center of the road and narrowly miss hitting another vehicle. Drunk drivers may also be driving too slowly, braking erratically, making sudden or illegal turns, turning or swerving abruptly, driving on the wrong side of the road or reacting too slowly traffic signals.

Was the driver who hit you distracted at the wheel?

If you're in the baby boomer generation or older, you may recall taking leisurely Sunday drives with your family as a child. Nowadays, this form of free time activity is not as common, quite possibly because Montana roadways are a lot more dangerous now than they were then. Why? One reason is simply that there are many more cars on the road at any given time than there used to be. Posted speed limits are often higher, as well.

One of the leading factors of increased highway danger, however, is that of distracted driving. You may adhere to all traffic regulations and practice good driving habits that help keep yourself and your passengers safe, but if there's a distracted driver nearby, you and anyone else in the vicinity are at great risk for injury. It's important to be able to recognize signs of distracted driving and also to know where to seek support if a collision occurs.

Mother killed after falling in subway station

On Jan. 28 at about 8 p.m., a 22-year-old woman fell in a New York City subway station and died. At the time of the fall, the woman was attempting to carry her toddler while also carrying the baby's stroller. The woman was taking the stairs because the station on 53rd Street in Manhattan had no elevator. Currently, about 25 percent of the city's 476 subway stations are accessible to those who can't use stairs or an escalator.

However, there is no guarantee that the elevators that are in place will work. According to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), elevator installation in subway stations is a priority. The MTA plans to ensure that an individual won't have to go more than two stops before finding a functional elevator by 2025. Disability advocates have sued the state and the federal government saying that the lack of access violates the law.

Study suggests most people aren't allergic to penicillin

A common allergy reported by people in Montana and other states seeking medical treatment is penicillin. However, a new study suggests most individuals are not actually allergic to this widely used antibiotic. Published in a leading medical journal, the study concluded that 95 percent of the estimated 32 million people believed to be allergic to penicillin can take this medicine without experiencing reactions. Penicillin is an antibacterial drug with a long history of being used to help patients with bacterial infections.

While the study doesn't give reasons for the tendency to classify individuals as being allergic to penicillin, one possibility is that some children may be mistakenly given this antibiotic for what's really a viral infection. If they have a negative reaction, a doctor may err on the side of caution and consider a patient allergic to this particular medicine. Other times, there may be a desire to reduce the risk of related medical malpractice issues by being overly cautious. Viral infections are also commonly accompanied by rashes, which could be misinterpreted as an allergic reaction to an antibiotic. Additional research suggests that a third of all prescriptions for antibiotics are likely not needed.

Surgeon stress can lead to mistakes in operating room

The link between stress and medical errors has long been known, but a new study shows how even short-term stress can lead to mistakes in the operating room. Montana residents may want to know the results before they go under the knife. After all, medical errors are to blame for 250,000 to 440,000 deaths every year in the U.S.

Researchers at the Data Science Institute at Columbia University had a professor of surgery perform various procedures while wearing a Hexoskin Smart Shirt under his scrubs. This shirt, often used by athletes during workouts, measures electrical impulses from the heart and can help determine momentary stress levels based on the time between heartbeats. Through laparoscopic video recordings, researchers could document any mistakes.

Tips for defusing aggressive drivers

Road rage is all too common in Montana, just like anywhere else, but there are ways that drivers can avoid incurring it. Staying calm is the most important tip. When drivers are cut off, they should avoid honking the horn, flashing the high beams or making inflammatory hand gestures. These actions are better reserved for alerting other drivers to dangers.

Many drivers have their own methods for defusing anger. Music, for example, is proven to relieve stress. On the other hand, drivers will want to avoid tightly gripping their steering wheel for health reasons alone as it constricts blood flow and causes headaches. Drivers should be reasonable and remind themselves that they won't get home much sooner when they are angry.


Towe & Fitzpatrick, PLLC
619 SW Higgins, Ste. O
P.O. Box 1745
Missoula, MT 59806

Phone: 406-203-5148
Phone: 406-829-1669
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